On a balmy August afternoon, Ronald Gault is sitting on the porch of his Oak Bluffs home, overlooking the foothills of New York avenue. He sits outside among swinging chairs, couches and small tea tables, all of which are pristine, except for one, filled with a spiraled stack of cocktail napkins that read: Wine is the answer. What was the question?
“We had a cocktail party last night,” said Mr. Gault, Island summer resident, former investment banker and current wine producer of the Passages wine label.
The secret ingredient to throwing a great cocktail party, Mr. Gault believes, is good friends and wonderful wine, which is what inspired the Passages wine label, a brand of South African wine he and his wife, civil rights activist and award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, started in 2003. Mr. Gault and Ms. Hunter-Gault own 100 per cent of the brand.
The name came from the couple’s passages through life, which were often very serendipitous and sweet, Mr. Gault said. The two spent nearly two decades living and working in South Africa. Mr. Gault’s professional career — long and diverse — is dotted with years working in the Urban League, the Foreign Service, the United States Justice Department, the Ford Foundation and J.P. Morgan, where he served as CEO of business development and client relations in Johannesburg, South Africa. He’s taken bits and pieces of what he’s learned from each of these jobs — financial tips, consulting advice, when not to make a capital investment — to produce and successfully market the Passages label.
During their time in South Africa, while he and his wife had a day off or even just an hour, they roamed grape farms and tasted pinotages and chardonnays, cabernets and blends.
“We know what quality wine product tastes like,” he said. “So, Charlayne and I decided we liked the idea of having our own wine label and product. Our wines feature a soft beginning, full palate experience, with fruit forward quality and a very smooth finish. That’s our signature.”
All of the grapes sourced for Passages come from the Stellenbosch region in the Western Cape. “This area is known for its fruit, and we know this area well. The coastal region is ideal for growing grapes for wine,” he said.
Bringing this wine to the United States was really good for the brand, he said.
Passages wine is sold only in states that the couple has lived in, worked in or where friends or family reside. That includes New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Texas and, of course, Massachusetts.
On the Island, the wine is sold at three retail stores and 10 different restaurants. “It’s nice to be able to go into a restaurant like State Road and order a bottle of our wine with dinner,” he said.
And it’s also nice, he admitted, to invite friends to come over and sit on his Oak Bluffs porch for the simple reason of toasting another summer on the Vineyard with a glass of Passages pinotage.